KATHMANDU, March 5: Diamond Shumsher Rana, who antagonized his own clan by writing about its blood-stained machinations for power when the country was still ruled by the Rana oligarchs, died of kidney failure at 6:40 p.m. Friday, at the age of 93.
A long-time diabetic, Rana died of renal failure at Norvic International Hospital where he was admitted earlier this week after suffering renal complications. He had survived a major stroke in early 2009 after his wife passed away, and had undergone angioplasty.
He had not been well ever since. When Republica interviewed him in early 2010, he was barely able to walk and fumbled with names and dates, but still maintained a cheerful outlook that defied his age and failing health.
Rana´s body will be kept at the Nepal Academy from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday for the public to pay its last respects.
Born on July 5, 1918 at Tansen Durbar, Palpa, Rana is survived by son Raghu Shumsher Rana, his daughter who is a medical doctor, and grandchildren.
A true rebel who continued to follow the dictates of his heart despite having narrowly survived a death sentence, Rana´s first novel, “Basanti”, was published from Banares in 1948. It brought to light historical events spanning the pre-Rana period to the Kot massacre and the rise of Jung Bahadur.
He had personally journeyed to Banares to get 2,200 copies of the novel printed, knowing full well that the rulers of the time would not allow him to get it published in Nepal. What made it particularly audacious was that Rana was still in the army when the novel was printed, and then circulated in Nepal.
The novel branded Rana as anti-establishment, earned him powerful enemies in the government, and endeared him to the gathering anti-Rana movement of the time. He eventually led an anti-Rana rally in the capital while still serving as an army captain, and was given a death sentence. It took the political change of 1951 to save him.
While Basanti introduced Rana to the public, it was Seto Bagh or The Wake of the White Tiger that firmly established him as a novelist.
Rana, who had no formal education, wrote the novel at Nakkhu jail between 1960 to 1966. He was imprisoned at Nakkhu for his association with the Nepali Congress party, in which he was an active member from 1954 to 1987.
(Photo: Bijay Rai)
“At Nakkhu, there were 200 political prisoners, including Girijababu. Writing was the best thing one could do,” Rana told Republica in August 2010 at his residence at Kupondole, forgetting to mention former prime minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, who was also in the same prison.
Coincidentally, Rana breathed his last at Norvic even as Bhattarai wages his own struggle for life at the same hospital.
Published in 1970, Seto Bagh was a phenomenal success.
“To be honest, it was the book´s commercial success that turned me into a writer,” Rana told us last year. The novel that recounts the end of Jung Bahadur and the rise of his brothers at the cost of Jung´s sons has been translated into Enlgish, Japanese, German and French.
The seven novels including Seto Bagh that Rana wrote elevated him to the small circle of novelists in the country who survived solely on royalties from their works.
During BP Koirala´s premiership between 1959 and 1960, Rana and Subarna Shumsher shocked members of their own Rana clan by allowing the government to requisition large swathes of their inherited land in the southern plains and distribute it to the tillers.
Until his final days, the tillers visited his house to thank him in person.